This article is part of Football FanCast’s One to Watch series, which focuses on those players we think are particularly worth keeping an eagle-eye on as the 2019/20 season unfolds.
Jamie Shackleton will be hoping for more first-team opportunities in the forthcoming season after his promising 2018/19 campaign at Leeds United.
The Leeds youngster earned his first Championship start in a tricky away trip against Swansea in August 2018, as injuries forced the midfielder to slot in at right-back as Luke Ayling shifted into the centre of the defence.
Shackleton was unfazed by the challenge and impressed at full-back, providing an assist for Kemar Roofe with an intelligent cutback in what was a thrilling match at the Liberty Stadium, with both sides eventually sharing the points.
This was to be the first of many appearances for the Englishman, who went on to register 19 league appearances.
And despite the fact only three of those appearances were made from the outset, his performances illuminated a level of potential that suggests regular starts could be looming on the horizon.
The Championship is a gruelling 46-game campaign and one that demands a squad beaming with the stamina and determination to overcome the challenge.
Shackleton’s debut campaign yielded some good appearance figures, but after a year working with Bielsa he should be pushing for a regular place in the Argentine’s starting XI.
As the schedule gets busier, Shackleton’s versatility can allow him to cover in both defensive and midfield areas to cover for injured or jaded players, while it would not be wild to suggest he could consistently start on merit alone.
With Pontus Jansson departing for Brentford and Aapo Halme moving to Barnsley, there’s a sparsity of options in central defence for Bielsa to choose from, with Ben White, Gaetano Berardi and Liam Cooper the three recognised options.
Ayling could well move into central defence to fill a potential gap as could Kalvin Phillips. Tweaking the position of either of those two players to address a defensive shortage could pave a clear path in the starting XI for Shackleton, and Leeds’ refusal to address an apparent problem area hints the club trust the 19-year-old to slot into the team in either of his favoured positions.
Shackleton is a talented product of the academy and, given the progress he’s already made, he should be aiming for regular involvement this season.
He should be looking to become a comfortably rotated player, as someone who can slot in where necessary, perform to a solid standard and earn the trust of both the Elland Road faithful and his manager.
Huge strides have already been made in that regard but changes in expectation have shifted the dynamic ahead of the new season as Shackleton leaves the luxury of relative anonymity behind in the 2018/19 season.
Will he thrive, crumble or stagnate under a fresh set of circumstances? This is a player for both Leeds and neutral fans to monitor throughout the campaign.
Shackleton should target…